How to generate more speed

In the never ending world of learning to surf, discovering how to generate speed by manipulating your body and positioning on the wave face is a big deal. Making this happen and making it look good is another deal entirely.

In this post we take a look at the principles of generating speed and the body movements required to get you down the line quicker.

Compression and Extension

As a new & developing surfer you’ll have mastered catching waves, popping up and trimming left and right. On a good wave you’ll ride the face for a long time, but you know there is more, a lot more – you want to go faster! How do those other surfers go so fast you ask yourself?

Of course if you spend enough time around those other more experienced surfers you’ll figure it out, in time. But who has that kind of time?

Take note of the steps below and practice the training exercise and hack your way to surfing faster, quicker.

Compression – Generating speed is all about the compression and extension of your body. As a surfer catches a wave, gravity is what pulls them down the wave face. In order to keep balanced surfers compress their bodies which in turn converts potential energy into kinetic energy. Releasing this stored kinetic energy then gives the surfer a spring board to propel themselves in the desired direction of travel. (down the line)

Extension – From the compressed position at the bottom of a wave a surfer extends their body and lift their arms in the direction of travel, by dong so un weighting the surfboard and directing their body and surfboard back up the wave face.

Repeating this compression and extension motion is how surfers generate down the line speed.

Using these body movements at the right time on the correct parts of the wave means the surfer has a constant supply of renewable energy.

Land activity:

A good way to understand and practice compression and extension is to replicate the basic body movements on the beach as part of your warm up.

– Stand with your feet together / arms by your sides

– Look over your left shoulder and swing both your arms to the left. (Your arms should finish extended and level with your shoulders.)

– Simultaneously allow the pendulum motion of your swing arms to jump your body sideways landing a metre or so to your left.

– Repeat the exercise on either side of your body and gradually bend your knees just as you swing your arms.

Wave activity:

From a compressed position on your surfboard (at the bottom of a wave) over exaggerate your upward arm swing (until your arms are just below your shoulders)

Whilst dong this eye the top third section of the wave in front of you and aim to propel your surfboard towards it.

Once you reach your desired section, angle the nose of your surfboard back down the wave face slightly so that you begin to drop back down the wave face to gain speed (gravity)

Repeat this action as much as you need to generate speed in surfing.


Getting the timing right with this body movement is key – You’ll find examples of surfers generating speed in everywhere. Make sure you do some homework, watch some video clips or pay extra attention to experienced surfers on your beach.

Unlocking the movements to generating speed opens a whole new world in your surfing progression.

Jorrin Massingham is the owner of Cornish Wave Adventure Activities. Born in South Africa Jorrin moved to the UK aged 9 before setting out to gain skills and experiences further afield.

Passionate about adventure travel and the outdoors, Jorrin gained wide ranging experience from around the world in travel, tourism and outdoor activities through a variety of solo travel, adventures and job roles.

Currently living in Newquay, Cornwall, when not delivering activities through Cornish Wave, Jorrin can be found planning new adventures both at home and overseas.

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  1. I have read so much over the years about how to create speed and I think the focus of technique is leading people astray. I believe the shaping of the board is at least 70% of where the speed and everything else comes from. Technique just enhances the boards capability a little more. I’m currently making my 5th board. I have surfed for over 30 years and only just started making boards 4 months ago, so I do not profess to be an expert at this. I have a few favorite short boards (store bought) that grip hold on to barreling steep drops, a hand in the wave helps slow the drop, and they just take off at great speed across the wave without barely any side to side from me. These are short boards that would be described as hybrid fish. The way the boards perform with barely any surfing technique from me, tells me that the guy who shaped the board knew exactly what he was doing when making the board for his local break, which is where I mainly surf. I succeeded with my fourth board in creating the rails that grab hold an release water at speed to fly across the wave. Was no trick to it, I just used my square to measure the bottom and top wrap of my favorite boards. I put these rails on an 8′ Mal, using similar fin position. This 8′ mal has little rocker bar from a kick in the nose and a few inches at the back. The board has a single concave, into a double with a nice visible V where the double starts. The maneuverability and speed across the wave is amazing for a large board. I can tell how well the board goes just by the faces of people watching who don’t expect me to make the drop, let alone fly across the wave at the speed it does. My son who barely surfs wants me to give him the board. Now this tells me that it is not me or my son, but the board that is performing. One thing I feel the board lacks is paddling speed for such a big board. If I flattened the rocker I would lose turning capacity. I wonder if the concave is too deep or not shallow enough near the rails? But the funny thing is that depending on the swell, the board picks up some swells with ease as if the concave is creating it’s own speed and on other days the board seems to labour a little. Which adds to the fact that no matter how much technique you use to increase speed or whatever, the wave type and swell type plays a huge part in the performance of any board. The board is what performs. If you can’t understand what I am talking about, you have probably only ever ridden an epoxy pop out or cheap Thai or Indonesian import or a very, very badly shaped board. The two keys to surfing in my opinion is paddling ability and a good surfboard that suits you. I have had more than a few dogs over the years and that is par for the course.

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